Surina is a proud Californian by way of Connecticut and Pakistan. A first generation immigrant, Surina came to the US with her parents and five older siblings in 1973, and has been dedicated to gender, racial, and economic justice issues for most of her life.
As CEO, Surina oversees the Foundation’s strategic direction which is focused on building community-based power through investing in effective community-based organizations, training community leaders in policy advocacy, connecting key partners, and mobilizing significant financial resources.
Surina first became involved with WFC as a volunteer in 2004 serving on a grants review committee and then joined the staff in 2005 as a Senior Program Officer and was promoted to Director of Programs and then Vice President of Programs. In 2011 Surina was recruited by the Ford Foundation to design and launch Ford’s LGBT Rights Initiative and went on to become a Director in the Democracy Rights and Justice Program where she shaped more than $30 million in annual grantmaking around the world to expand rights for women, LGBT people, people living with HIV/AIDS, and in the areas of strengthening democratic participation and governance.
She returned to WFC as CEO in 2014 and is dedicated to engaging more people to join the Foundation and its partners to support those who are most impacted by the problems in their community to develop solutions to advance gender, racial, and economic justice.
Earlier in her career Surina served as Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (now OutRight Action International) where she worked to advance the human rights of LGBTQI people and people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Prior to that she was a research analyst for Political Research Associates, conducting groundbreaking research on the Right’s attacks on women and LGBT people.
She currently serves on the Boards of Funders for Reproductive Equity, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Alliance for Justice, and La Cocina. Surina is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Campaign for College Opportunity, the Ambassador Council for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a founding Advisor for the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative, and a member of the Public Policy Committee for Southern California Grantmakers and Northern California Grantmakers.
She previously served on the Boards of numerous organizations including the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Surina is a widely recognized expert on gender, racial, and economic justice and a frequent commentator on the power of women’s philanthropy. In 2015, Surina was recognized with a Leaders in Action Award from Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and in 2017 the South Asian Network recognized Surina with a Community Solidarity Award. Her writing and research have been published widely in print and online publications including the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Philanthropy News Digest.